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Ilhan Omar endorses Bernie Sanders; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will do so too

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / Sept. 24
                                Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is expected to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / Sept. 24

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is expected to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / May 18
                                Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / May 18

    Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president.

WESTERVILLE, Ohio >> Rep. Ilhan Omar endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont for the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will endorse Sanders at a rally this weekend, according to his campaign.

Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York and a star of the progressive left, will join Sanders at his “Bernie’s Back” rally in Queens on Saturday.

Earlier Tuesday, his campaign had teased that Sanders would have a “special guest” at the event.

News of the endorsements came as the Democratic presidential candidates were wrapping up their appearances in the fourth debate of the primary season. Ocasio-Cortez’s planned endorsement was first reported by The Washington Post.

“Bernie is leading a working-class movement to defeat Donald Trump that transcends generation, ethnicity and geography,” Omar, D-Minn., said in a statement.

She cited the bill she and Sanders introduced in June to cancel all of the country’s student debt, worth about $1.6 trillion, and praised him for working to end foreign wars. “I believe Bernie Sanders is the best candidate to take on Donald Trump in 2020,” she said.

In his own statement, Sanders called Omar “a leader of strength and courage.”

The endorsements, which come just two weeks after Sanders suffered a heart attack in Las Vegas, are likely to provide a much-needed boost to Sanders’ campaign. They could also serve to quell some concerns about his health and his age.

Sanders, 78, has been recovering since his heart attack, first at a hospital and then at his home in Burlington, Vermont. The debate Tuesday night in Westerville, Ohio, just outside of Columbus, was his first appearance before a national audience since the episode.

Sanders’ health issues have cast a degree of uncertainty over his campaign and left his aides rushing to reassure voters about his age and health, just as he was trying to improve his standing in a race that in recent weeks has become more of a two-person contest between Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Asked about his health directly at the debate Tuesday night, Sanders nodded to the rally and to the “special guest.”

“Let me invite you all to a major rally we’re having in Queens,” he said. “We’re going to have a special guest at that event, and we are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country.”

He also said, “I’m feeling great.”

Sanders’ campaign is billing the New York rally as his official return to the campaign trail. It had toyed with holding the rally in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, according to an aide, but settled on a park in Queens, with a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.

Presidential endorsements from the congresswomen, both members of the group of first-term Democratic women of color known as “the squad,” were highly coveted. In addition to being among the country’s most prominent progressives, they have also become some of Trump’s favorite foils.

Last month, Warren won the endorsement of the Working Families Party, a progressive group that endorsed Sanders during the last presidential cycle.

The endorsement was a boon to Warren’s candidacy as she aimed to position herself as Biden’s main rival and the standard-bearer for the progressive left. But it also unnerved supporters of Sanders, who criticized the endorsement process.

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